So, there I was just 5-years-old and faced with unbearable temptation. It was late afternoon and the half dozen Matchbox cars we’d been puttering with held little interest. Danny, my mostly rival, sometimes friend had wandered over to the coat closet in his family’s small downstairs rec room. I followed. He drew back the door, and there in the shadow of coats along the inner wall rested the guitar. Ooooooooh … AAAAAhhhhhh … barely contained exuberance and total reverence on my part. Occasional family walks around the block had provided me with glimpses of Leonard, Danny’s father, sitting on the porch stoop in the evenings strumming away on that guitar. I felt sure, given the chance, I, too, could strum away with just such ease, recreating any song to my liking. And there was my chance. All that stood between me and the object of want was one none-too-tall, ruddy-haired, freckle-faced, fairly mean boy.
I made a decision, chose my temptation.
I looked at Danny. Danny looked at me, looking at the guitar. I weighed the options. Employ an air of nonchalance, feigning lack of care with the risk of the closet door being shut forever more. Be completely forthright in my want of the guitar and hope for favor where there’d been none prior, or stoop to the undignified act of begging, pleading with someone I found quite despicable. A smirk crossed Danny’s face replaced by a look of superior lording. My option was clear, all pretense dropped and urgency took over. I meekly asked if I could touch the guitar. Just touch, one little touch. A nearby door opened and the tromping of heavy footsteps approaching further compounded matters. Not waiting for a response on Danny’s part, I made a decision, chose my temptation. Leaping into the closet, I pulled the door shut behind me, my hands eagerly grasping for the guitar, searching for the strings, the frets. I moved my fingers across, up and then down. And again. Why wasn’t it working? The door opened just as quickly as it had shut. There stood Danny surrounded by his entire family, mom, dad and two brothers, stern looks all around with a triumphant “nanny nanny boo boo” on the face of Danny. Cheeks afire in embarrassment, I sheepishly surrendered my hold on the guitar and trudged home feeling disillusioned with the thought that maybe all of life’s pleasures were to be just as tough in coming.
This past January, after playing Guitar Hero for the first time, I looked back on the hours I’d played and thought how those hours could have been spent practicing my actual guitar that has sat in solitary, encased and propped against the living room wall for ever so long. I took it out one night soon after and began playing. Make that practicing, what I was doing was a far cry from playing. Remembering back to when it seemed that just about every guy in high school was attempting to learn the guitar, memories of dutifully listening to them perform their latest bit of song progression over the phone gave me hope that I will actually improve at some point. After a great start, with enough practice time in to have acquired bloody fingertips even, a load of more pressing activity has taken its place. My guitar now resides alongside my bed and in the dark of night I absently stretch out my fingers to graze the strings returning again and again to the same few notes, finally placing their familiarity in being from Nirvana’s Lake of Fire.
Last year, I sat in a blackened movie theater and viewed the August Rush preview. From the very opening, I was hooked and by the end in such enraptured elation and simultaneous agreement of the move’s tagline “Music is a harmonic connection between all living beings” that I turned to my dad for confirmation. He was looking down rooting around in his popcorn. “Yes, yes! A harmonic connection!” I whispered. His response, “Eh.” Eh? Stopping to consider the source, this from a man who considers anything produced past 1949 to be “screams set to a beat,” I still find it hard to accept that one can’t concur with such a statement, at least as a general consensus, if not personally. As someone who looks to music as a source of exultation, of communication, of absolute renewal and downright comfort at times, “eh” was kinda hard to swallow. Months later, in watching August Rush (a sweet and sappy flick, though, once this fact is accepted, thoroughly enjoyable), there came a scene to cause the memory of my guitar closet rendezvous to come flooding back. Look, see …
There, the boy, his very first try, off he goes playing it up like a pro, just as I once felt sure I could. Vicarious moment, I tell you, thank you, Hollywood. Though I’ve always harbored a passion for drummers, and am an admitted out ‘n’ out sucker for piano players, I am in want of the ability to produce intimacy. The kind experienced in the presence of a lone acoustic guitar played ala round-robin out around a campfire, in a room where others gather to worship before a Bible study, or in a cramped cafe filled for open mike night. An intimacy that draws others closer and provides a space in time in which all are very much harmonically connected. Music is integral. Responsible for moving many a movie along, for one, engaging the audience, building suspense, accenting the poignancy of a moment. The crescendo, the arc in scale, the rising, taking over, floating above, falling below. Music is power with its capacity to both calm and soothe, enliven and rouse. And I wanna be a part of that, to evoke and provide such things for those in my own life, as others have for me. ♦